Never Apologize, Never Explain

The popular film, Julia and Julia, about the life of Julia Childs, and a blogger named Julia, gave Julia Childs the opportunity to give the wonderful advice: ‘Never apologize. Never explain.’ The source of this advice is most often attributed to the classicist, Benjamin Jowett, one of the most influential Masters of the famous Oxford College, Balliol, in the late 1800s.

Benjamin Jowett

Good advice for a cook or an Oxford Don. But it should be the rule for every surfer. If you wipe out in the surf, it is of no value to apologize or explain. In surfing, it is not a sign of weakness to apologize, or explain — it is absolutely irrelevant. You have no one to apologize to, and no explanation other than your own failure. So this is not necessarily elitist, but constructive. Wiping out with dignity is all about not apologizing, and not giving excuses, and not explaining, but getting back up on the board.


The Roller-Coaster of Life and Surf

There was an excellent review by Richard Morrison of Susan Boyle’s first album, which promises to be topping charts for the Xmas season 2009. Susan is the woman that YouTube made a global star from her performance on Britain’s Got Talent. He felt that her singing had a quality of other major stars – the ‘ability to project a personal dispair or loneliness … into a song’ (Richard Morrison, ‘Susan Beware’, The Times, Review, Saturday, 14 November 2009: 5). Where does this come from? Morrison argues:

Charley White's Studio Photo, Hawaii
Photo by Clark Little Studio, Hawaii

‘What truly grips — in literature, films and reality, too — is a life that swoops up and down like a roller-coaster. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune not ony reveal character. They also define it.’

Of course, from a spinster in council housing, Susan rose to the heights of her success on Britain’s Got Talent, then seemed to have lost direction, and confidence, but reappeared as a star again in the US with her album. A true roller-coaster for her. Perhaps this is the major story within the story of surfing. It is a sport that takes people on real roller-coasters of life, from near-drowning to total exhilaration within the space of minutes. In the enclosed environment of surfing experience, the ups and downs of success and failure, and how surfers deal with it, define character. Exactly.

The Dream

There’s always Brighton, Bill.

If you ever felt like it, you could walk straight past your office one morning,
get on a train
stick your head out the window and whoop
just like you’d caught your first glimpse of a big set.

I’d wake up to a knock at the door around 12.
“Hey Peter, d’ya fancy going out for some breakfast… It’s on me.”
“Oh yeah… sure Bill…. how come you’re  in Brighton.”
“I came down for some waves dude”
“Oh right… er I’m not sure you’ll find much of a swell in Brighton…
…but let’s go check it out.. you never know when conditions are up.”

Clark Little's Photo
Photo by Clark Little, Hawaii

After all what’s the point of a surf buddy if you don’t hang out looking at the ocean.

Take a Wave Barack: Stop Sitting on the Outside

Surfers have no wisdom to impart to the President of the United States, deliberating the next steps for the US and NATO in Afghanistan. He is being accused of dithering in developing his forward military strategy. Should he pull out, build up the troop levels, retreat to the cities, stay on the present course, or develop a strategy that no one has put forward.

Obama by Jeremy Sutton at

Sitting on a board, rather than in the Oval Office, being advised by his many able advisers, it is difficult to suggest a direction. However, if President Barach Obama were a surfer, his surfing buddies would encourage President Obama not to wait for the perfect wave. Instead, he should take a wave and do the best with what the ocean and life presents. Surfers, like Presidents, can wait for the ideal wave, but it is not likely to come, and if it comes, he may not be in the right position to take it. Meanwhile, they can be on the outside while others take all the rideable waves.

I know what you are thinking: Surfers only care for themselves, while Presidents take care of nations — they are responsible for the welfare of others. But this only makes it more difficult to make a decision, easier to prevaricate.

Both are facing real life, and scary possibilities. All the forces are aligned for remaining on the outside, and not taking a chance. So when a set of waves is on the horizon, the surfer does not wonder if the perfect wave is among them, but whether he will be in the right place to take the best wave. Take it, knowing that another set will come.

Of course, surfers don’t become Presidents, and Presidents seldom surf.

PS: Noticed that President Obama’s Heathcare Bill passed the House of Representatives. He took that one.

Keep your Eyes on the Horizon: A Letter from Peter

Hi Bill

Sorry for the long delay in answering, I was waiting for a  writing wave but none came.  Paddling back in so I thought I would reply.  We did ride a set of housesits in the Brighton area that just rolled in one after the other.  Took our time choosing a flat and then found one.  We paddled to meet it, turned to take off and then pulled out last moment.  Didn’t feel good.  It had that wrong shape.  We would have wiped out for sure.  Instead took a room at a friend’s house and using it as a base while S builds up her practice again and I commute in chunks to go farming in Denmark.  (No swell in the Skaggerak).  We’ll see what happens.

I’m not so fired up by the blog idea. I think I’m more of a one to one communicator writingwise.  I haven’t touched my blogospher identity.  Maybe a slow developer.

I was hoping to come this year, but as I say, I’m in Denmark. Something about entropy.

Funnily enough I was thinking about San Diego today, as the place I’m staying in reminds me of the cowshed at the bottom of your yard.  It hasn’t got a palm tree outside, nor is there a heat shimmer when the Santa Anna blows.  It doesn’t even have an ant infestation when you don’t wash up for half an hour.  It’s actually Henrik’s lab at the edge of the woodland, with a bed in the middle surrounded by test tubs and lab things.  The last time I worked in a lab was La Jolla.  So from cowshed to lab. From lab tech to farmer.  There’s a pleasing reverse logic there.

Kisses to D.

Keep your eyes on the horizon.